A peanut allergy is when your child’s immune system reacts to a normally harmless protein in peanuts. Allergic reactions can be mild such as skin welts, tingling mouth and stomach symptoms. However, some can be life-threatening (anaphylaxis).
Peanut allergy has increased in children during the past few decades. The current rate is 3% of one-year olds. The reasons aren’t fully understood yet, but most likely it involves an interaction between genes and external factors.
One of the external factors may actually be the increase in peanut-free diets that aim to protect children from allergy. Studies now show this may be having the opposite effect. It appears the older some children are the first time they eat peanuts, the less efficient their stomachs are at learning the difference between a harmless peanut protein and a harmful protein, such as a virus or bacteria.
What to do
* If your child has a known peanut allergy, definitely avoid peanuts and have emergency treatment ready in case of anaphylaxis.
* If your child is at high-risk of developing a peanut allergy (this may be defined as having a sibling or parent with a known allergy), eating peanuts may help prevent an allergy developing.
Speak with a doctor before introducing peanuts to receive appropriate testing and advice.
* If your child isn’t at high-risk, after you start introducing other solid foods to your baby from around 6 months of age, you can also introduce peanuts.
Speak with a doctor before introducing peanuts, particularly if you’re uncertain about the risk.
* Advice on introducing peanuts may include: start with foods like peanut butter, not whole peanuts (which can cause choking); the first time should be at home; if your child has no allergic reaction, you may gradually increase the amount.
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